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Report: Speed Camera Ticket Accuracy Comes Under Scrutiny

A state delegate wants speeding tickets dismissed in cases where it's unclear the motorist was in violation.

A recent report published by the Baltimore Sun points out an issue with speed cameras in Howard County—citizens who receive a ticket can't check the accuracy of the camera based on the photographs provided.

Because Howard County speed cameras round the times each photograph is taken to the nearest second, motorists who receive a ticket are not able to calculate the accuracy of the camera's radar gun based on the distance their vehicle travels between photographs, according to the Sun.

In Baltimore County, a state delegate is calling for a state audit and possible reboot of the speed camera program in Maryland.

Del. Jon Cardin told Patch Monday he would like judges to throw out tickets when it's not clear that the driver was speeding. He stopped short of saying he would include language in his bill that would freeze speed camera programs used by the state, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties.

In Baltimore City, citations provide time stamps to the thousandth of a second on each of the two photos on the citations issued. Those time stamps allow for a math calculation that helps determine speed, according to the paper.

The General Assembly passed legislation allowing for the implementation of speed cameras in highway construction and school zones.

A spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department told the Sun the photographs are used to show that the vehicle is in motion, not prove the vehicle was speeding, and are in compliance with the law.

Howard County currently employs two manned speed camera vans that are posted throughout the county in school and work zones.

Each camera works by using laser technology to track a vehicle during a certain period of time. At the end of the tracking period, the system determines the average speed of the vehicle, according to information posted on the county police's website.

The tickets do not provide the distance used by the camera to determine how fast the car was traveling. If distance was provided, along with time stamps down to the tenth of a second, a motorist could use a math equation to determine their speed, according to Judge Steven A. Glazer, who wrote a lengthy article this year taking a look at speed cameras in Washington DC and Maryland.

In the article, Glazer notes the problem of photos that do not include times down to at least the tenth of a second: "Without knowing the precise moment when each photograph was taken, it is impossible to say for certain how fast a vehicle was going between the takings of the two photographs."

Glazer, an administrative law judge with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also pointed to examples from Washington DC that not only provide detailed time information, but also include measured markings along the road where speed cameras are set up. Using the markings, motorists can estimate about how far their vehicle traveled.

Glazer wrote that a district court judge would have insufficient evidence to tell how fast a car was really going based on photographs unless detailed time and distance information are provided.

Paul Hoffman December 12, 2012 at 01:53 AM
If the idea of speed cameras is safety why do the vans go to great lengths to hide in bushes or behind signs, out of view? Today most of us drive with a lot on our minds. It seems to me that a van sitting in plain view would be a reminder to slow down. After all, the signs out on the highways are nothing more than reminders for us. They certainly are not hidden....They are reminders! If the cameras are not about money paint them orange or red, put a flashing light on them and have them in the open....Wouldn't that remind us! COME ON HOWARD COUNTY JUST SAY IT IS ABOUT MONEY....Safety was only used to sell it to the public.
Greg G. December 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
We all know it's about money. New York State Troopers did it best. As a PSA they would come on right before the nightly news and announce that there have been too many accidents or fatalities on a certain stretch of road. Therefore they would stop and ticket anyone speeding or driving recklessly in that area. Statistics show there are more rear end accidents at stop light cameras then those without. Clearly, it is not about safety.
Joe December 12, 2012 at 02:58 PM
No Owe'Malley says that the pay per ticket bounty is against the law he pushed and supported. Well then Gov, DO SOMETHING about it if these jurisdictions are violation Maryland law! Don't just open your piehole! Do something!
EL December 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
So all tickets are checked and double checked. That is the party line, correct? So how about this news story? http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/transportation/cars/video-daniel-doty-gets-speeding-ticket-going-0-mph
Paul Hoffman December 14, 2012 at 06:49 PM
There are 48 million reasons why the city has no interest in reviewing tickets prior to sending them out. After all, if 60% just write a $40. check and send it in, isn't that what the jurisdictions want....just pay it and forget it!

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